[SCENE: Semele’s tomb outside the royal palace of Thebes. Dionysus, fey god of intoxication and beautiful boys, stands alone before the palace gates. He speaks directly to the audience.]
They called me a sissy so I destroyed them. I suppose, though, I am something of a mama’s boy. My grandfather, Old Man Cadmus, king when I was a child, made my mother’s tomb (this one here, overgrown with grapevines, I see) a quiet spot. I like grapevines. It’s a good place to return to. For that I might even be grateful. But … no.
Semele’s sisters, my aunts, have all behaved badly. They called Dionysus a pretender and a bastard and that angelic Hera didn’t trick my poor mother into killing herself. They claim that the bull she shamelessly fucked wasn’t Papa Zeus in disguise … that he didn’t then reveal himself to my mother as living fire, burning her alive with me still in her womb. They don’t understand how the gods work and because they weren’t immediately struck down by lightning (where’s the fun in that?) my aunts grew cocky.
Me? O I’ve been here and there. Sowing my wild goats in the Far East, teaching my Mysteries to charming infidels and barbarians out in Arabia and Asia. That’s when I heard they were mocking Dionysus back home. I love stories where hubris and chutzpah gets grossly punished. Especially now, on the day that I have returned to cursed Thebes where I was born, bringing with me derangement—divine and consuming—as punishment.
[Holds up his thyrsus, a long phallic-shaped ivy-covered spear]
Of course this looks like a penis. I shook my thyrsus and made the women of Lydia and Phrygia froth at the mouth and abandon their families to go dancing naked with their mothers and daughters and friends. Why? Because I can. I spread madness everywhere I go, and because my mother’s sisters thought calling me a sissy would be an insult, my dear aunties—Agave, Ino and Autonoe—are fucking more than Bacchic bulls up in the mountains these days.
Sinners must be taught their lesson. Cadmus, being old and wrinkly, pissed me off when he renounced the throne to Auntie Agave’s son, Pentheus. There’s nothing worse than a snotty-nosed prude afraid of his own cock but claiming to know what the gods want. What an odious little shit, Pentheus, who apparently is too stupid to fear divine wrath if the god in question lisps and prances through his city, which will be ironic, I suppose, since I’ve turned his supporters, the proper women of Thebes, into blood-lusting, finger-fucking Maenads … like the kids say these days: burn, patriarchy, burn.
[Enter Lucine, leader of the Bacchae cult, wearing a garland of flowers on her head. She is dressed in ritual deerskin and carries a small drum.]
My beautiful savage, Lucine, named after the moon. You have followed me out of the kingdoms of Ararat and Artaxiad. We have conquered barbarian lands together. Now I shall go to the valley below Mount Cithaeron and rejoin my Bacchae. Beat your drum outside Pentheus’ palace. Let all the eyes in this damn city see you dance.